Leading Open Source Coder Rants about Rants

Oct 07, 2014

Lennart Poettering wants to change the way Linux developers talk to each other.

Red Hat developer Lennart Poettering, who currently works on systemd but has also been involved with projects such as PulseAudio and the Avahi zeroconf implementation, has posted a scathing critique on the state of communication in the open source development community. Poettering denounces the caustic and disrespectful tone used by some open source developers, who are accustomed to trading insults and taunts in their blog and newsgroup posts that could easily be called verbal abuse if someone said them in person.
Poettering writes, “the Open Source community is full of assholes, and I probably more than most others am one of their most favourite targets. I get hate mail for hacking on open source. People have started multiple ‘petitions’ on petition web sites, asking me to stop working (google for it). Recently, people started collecting Bitcoins to hire a hitman for me (this really happened!). Just the other day, some idiot posted a ‘song’ on youtube, a creepy work, filled with expletives about me and suggestions of violence. People post websites about boycotting my projects, containing pretty personal attacks.”
Poettering blames Linus Torvalds for setting the caustic tone embraced by so many open source developers. Torvalds’ insults and denunciations are legendary, and Poettering’s blog post lists a few of the most extreme examples. Poettering engages in a bit of his own negatory hyperbole when accusing Tolvalds of setting a disrespectful tone: “A fish rots from the head down.” Still, he admits it isn’t all about one guy. “But it is not just Linus, it’s a certain group of people around him who use the exact same style, some of which semi-publically even phantasize about the best ways to … well, kill me.”
As Poettering admits, he, and others who survive in the open source community, must develop a thick skin. Still, as he points out, the real problem is, “it’s not an efficient way to run a community. If Linux had success, then that certainly happened despite, not because of this behavior.”

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